Under Pressure: Roberto Luongo

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“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.

For the Vancouver Canucks, we pick…goalie Roberto Luongo.

Full disclosure: we were going to pick Ryan Kesler for this, because 1) there’s quite a bit of pressure on Kesler to return to form, and 2) everyone’s kind of sick of the Canucks’ goaltending saga.

But we just couldn’t do it — nobody’s under more pressure this season in Vancouver than Luongo, for these reasons:

1) His reputation is on the line. Earlier this month, he said his goal is to “get back to where I was two years ago and re-establish myself as one of the best in the league.” Luongo finished the 2013 season with a .907 save percentage, his lowest mark since his rookie season with the Islanders.

2) There’s no legitimate Plan B for the Canucks. Vancouver’s backup is probably going to be Eddie Lack, a 25-year-old who’s yet to make his NHL debut and is coming off hip surgery. Which is to say, Lack is no Cory Schneider. Not yet anyway. If Luongo isn’t good, the Canucks could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

3) The Olympics. Luongo wants to play for Team Canada again. “This is a big year for me,” he said. “I have been sitting on the bench for a while and I want to show everybody what I can do. We all know it’s an Olympic year so I just want to make the best of it.”

On top of all that, Luongo’s long-term future in Vancouver is far from clear, even though the 34-year-old is signed through 2021-22. Remember, the Canucks still have one of their compliance buyouts remaining. And while ownership was obviously loathe to use it this past summer, if Luongo struggles badly this season, the pressure from fans (a.k.a. customers) to use it next June will be immense. Vancouver hockey fans pay some of the highest ticket prices in the NHL. In return, they expect ownership to use its deep pockets to put the best team possible on the ice.

But that debate can wait for later, if necessary. (We don’t even want to get into the whole “Luongo might not actually mind getting bought out” angle.)

Luongo, by the way, didn’t get off to the best start in the preseason; on Wednesday, he allowed four goals in the first 12:24 versus the Oilers, including this stinker:

For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.

Video: Coyotes’ Luke Schenn scores in his own net during loss to Stars

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As you may have heard, things haven’t been going well for the Arizona Coyotes this season. Yesterday’s 5-4 loss to the Dallas Stars dropped their record to 0-6-1 in 2017-18.

Arizona actually jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the game, when Derek Stepan opened the scoring 5:50 into the first period.

Dallas’ Jamie Benn got that goal back less than a minute later on the power play. Unfortunately for Arizona, the bleeding didn’t stop there. Less than a minute after Benn scored, Radek Faksa was credited with the go-ahead goal to give the Stars a 2-1 advantage.

The thing is, Faksa’s stick wasn’t the last one to touch the puck before it went into the Arizona net. It was Coyotes defenseman Luke Schenn that had that honor.

That’s a tough break, but that’s just the way the puck’s been bouncing for them this season.

PHT Morning Skate: 5 things Jagr did in the NHL before Gaudreau, Monahan were born

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–Currently there are four players with a Latino background in the NHL. Those players are: Auston Matthews, Max Pacioretty, Matt Nieto and Al Montoya. Fear the Fin wrote an interesting story about NHL teams not doing enough to market to fans from different backgrounds. “Besides the Sharks, several other teams could be making efforts to reach out to an untapped Latinx market. Dallas, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, hell, even the New York teams have millions of fans that aren’t being reached because of some old, racist idea of what a hockey fan should look like.” (fearthefin.com)

–Blues forward Vladimir Sobotka was fine $5,000 for a high-sticking incident with Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on Wednesday night. (NHL.com)

–The Calgary Flames have been an all-or-nothing kind of team so far this season. They’ve had a games where they scored six goals and five goals, but they’ve also been shut out twice. They’re heading in the right direction. (flamesnation)

–Garth Snow was hired by the Islanders in 2006 and he’s made enough mistakes to last a lifetime, but ownership still seems to believe in him. This is a huge year for Snow. If he’s capable of re-signing John Tavares though, maybe ownership’s decision will be justified. (SNY.tv)

–The NWHL is set to start their third season. Unfortunately, a number of Olympic Stars won’t be returning to the league this year. On the bright side, there’s a number of young stars that are ready to take the next step. (victorypress.org)

–Colorado Avalanche fans had a lot of disappointment to deal with last season. They were the worst team in the NHL by a mile, which is making their fans appreciate the little things this season. The Avs have been fun to watch early on this season. (milehighsticking.com)

–The Buffalo Sabres are finally returning home from a road trip, but they’re returning home with a number of injuries. Jacob Josefson, Zemgus Girgensons, Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian, Justin Faulk and Robin Lehner are all banged up. That should open the door for training camp standout Seth Griffith. (buffalohockeybeat.com)

–Teams get pretty creative when it comes to team building activities. The Washington Capitals, for example, went to  an FBI Academy in Stafford County, Virginia. This kind of looks like fun. (russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

–The Blue Jackets are off to an incredible 5-1-0 start. They’ve won four games in a row and things are looking good for them right now. Despite the great start, there’s still things that could be going better in Columbus. Oliver Bjorkstrand still hasn’t scored, the special teams has been lacking and they can’t seem to win face-offs consistently. (thehockeywriters.com)

–Fanragsports take a look at how each of the head coach’s on new teams are doing in 2017-18. Gerard Gallant has exceeded expectations with Vegas, John Stevens has done a remarkable job in Log Angeles, Ken Hitchcock’s reunion with Dallas has already had ups and downs, Travis Green and Bob Boughner are holding their own in Vancouver and Florida, and Phil Housley and Rick Tocchet have both struggled with Buffalo and Arizona. (fanragsports.com)

–The Toronto Maple Leafs have been excellent at even-strength, but their special teams have helped carry them over the last couple of years.  Jeff Veillette of faceoffcircle.ca looked at the penalties they’ve drawn versus penalties that are called against them. They do well with holding calls, but they struggle when it comes to stick discipline. (faceoffcircle.ca)

Jonathan Drouin is more than just another hockey star in Montreal. The 22-year-old was traded to his hometown team this summer and he couldn’t have been more excited. He tried to get away from all the distractions that come with playing hockey in Montreal, but he couldn’t get away from all the fans. (Sports Illustrated)

–The Calgary Flames moved Jaromir Jagr to a line with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. Jagr did a lot of damage in the NHL before his two new linemates were even born. For example, he won two Stanley Cups before they took their first breath on earth. (The Score)

The Buzzer: Celebrating genius of McDavid, Bergeron, Karlsson

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Player of the Night: Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins

Nico Hischier collected two goals and an assist in a blistering effort as the Devils beat the Senators in overtime. Erik Karlsson almost ruined things for New Jersey with three assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy pitched an impressive 43-save shutout as the Lightning edged the Blue Jackets. Ben Bishop narrowly kept Clayton Keller and Derek Stepan from even bigger nights, yet each player scored two goals and one assist apiece in a slim Stars win vs. the Coyotes.

Even Bergeron’s teammates made some waves.

There were great choices for player of the night, but ultimately, Bergeron’s return to the Bruins lineup stands tallest. He scored a goal and three assists, soothing injury-bummed Bruins fans as part of Boston’s victory against Vancouver.

Bergeron didn’t ease right in. He won half of his draws, fired six shots on goal, and almost logged 21 minutes of ice time. Maybe he can hold things together for Boston?

Highlight of the Night: Connor McDavid‘s ridiculous assist

This post goes into greater detail on that and Edmonton’s win, so we’ll just stick this GIF in here because you need to see it either way:

OK, but to avoid an overly redundant buzzer, check Hischier here, David Pastrnak‘s great goal, and Mikhail Sergachev‘s big night. And, as a bonus, Will Butcher must have nodded to Karlsson after sending this ridiculous outlet pass:

Outstanding.

You know what? Enjoy Bishop robbing Derek Stepan as a bonus bonus.

Misc.

Click here for Erik Gudbranson‘s hit and fight. Zack Kassian‘s hit on Ryan Hartman is mentioned there, but just in case you missed it, here it is one more time:

Factoids of the night

Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators continued their hot streak by blanking the Flyers. Rinne enjoys a milestone moment:

Two impressive bits regarding how dominant McDavid and Karlsson have been:

Scores and more

Bruins 6, Canucks 3 (more)

Devils 5, Senators 4 [OT] (more)

Islanders 4, Rangers 3 [SO]

Predators 1, Flyers 0

Lightning 2, Blue Jackets 0 (more)

Oilers 2, Blackhawks 1 [OT] (more)

Blues 4, Avalanche 3

Hurricanes 2, Flames 1

Stars 5, Coyotes 4

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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Should Erik Gudbranson get suspended for boarding Frank Vatrano?

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The Boston Bruins power play made Erik Gudbranson and the Vancouver Canucks pay with three goals during the major for his hit on Frank Vatrano, but the NHL might decide to go further.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety confirmed that Gudbranson, 25, will receive a Friday hearing for the boarding check. The league tends to be vague about this, but Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reports that it’s expected to being an interview over the phone, rather than the in-person variety that can bring about harsher punishments.

Vatrano returned to the Bruins’ eventual 6-3 win against the Canucks, yet there’s a chance that he might have a setback. (Knowing Boston’s recent luck, don’t count on good news until you see it.)

Watch the video and Gudbranson’s fight with Tim Schaller in the video above, via Hockey Fights.

Fans responded to that announcement by pointing out one of Thursday’s other questionable hits: Zack Kassian on Ryan Hartman, which only drew a minor penalty:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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